Sunday, June 29, 2014

2006 Pontiac Torrent Review, Part 2 The Reality.

Again, this is a USED car, with 95,000 miles in good condition. GM no longer makes the Pontiac brand, but almost everything that can be said about this vehicle also applies to the 2006 Chevrolet Equinox, which sold over 110,000 units while the Torrent sold 44,000. Te only differences are the Pontiac has a five speed automatic, while the Chevrolet has a four speed, along with some minor differences in the steering wheel, lights and badges, this is the same vehicle.
I've had a bit more time to drive this vehicle, and have noticed a few more details. The ride is still taut, and a bit grumbling on rough roads. Acceleration is very brisk considering this engine is rated at 185 hp. I've yet to engage the traction control, all wheel drive or the antilock brakes, so that's still up in the air. Thus far, I've had the transmission lines replaced because the old ones were rotten through (the dealer did this free of charge), and had to relamp parts of the center stack, ala the Rendezvous and Radio Shack with a soldering iron. This cost about $12 because I already had the solder and iron, just not the bulbs. Not too bad, as the rest has been fine.
Cargo room in this year and model is a bit at a premium because of the way the plastic covers are over the wheelwells. This is slightly offset by the table of course for two tier loading, but I'd almost rather have a more open back end. You can pull the back seat forward, but this is also at the expense of some legroom. No plywood carrying here, but those are the breaks. The crossbars to the roof rack are absent on this car, so carrying things on the roof (especially with the moonroof) are going to be out of the question until I find a way to get this done. My parents did it with three kids and a 1976 Ford Mustang on weeklong trips, so a 2006 Torrent shouldn't be a huge issue there. It's also bigger than my 1989 Buick Skyhawk wagon, which was my workhorse throughout most of the 1990's. I carried water heaters and a furnace in that. It is something to be aware of when considering this or an Equinox for doing heavy work though.
After reading the owners manual, I figured out that the radio is a six disk CD changer, with XM radio hence the feed button. Thus far it has worked fine, but the controls are still a bit on the busy side though and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if this failed. The heating and air controls are very easy to use, with some getting used to and this winter the seat warmers will be appreciated.
I've noticed that the seating is low, but not like sitting on a cushion by any means. The space to operate the seat controls isn't generous, but not tight either and the six way, yes the six way power seat is not a problem. The instrumentation, after dealing with the silver and teal instruments on the Rendezvous for four years (GM should have recalled these, as they were impossible to read in low light with the lights on) is fantastic. The only gripe is that even with the gas tank topped off, the needle goes short of the full mark. As far as fuel mileage goes, this is not an economy car. I've gotten about 18 miles to the gallon in mixed driving, which is better than a pickup or van would done. At 100,000 miles or sooner, I'm going to change out the spark plugs and see if that makes a difference. Maranatha!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Moving After All,

Got Chrome to work on my OS, so I'm staying right here boys and girls.

2006 Pontiac Torrent Review. First Impressions.

Okay, I'm still having myriad issues with Blogger right now, but this is going to take a month to get articles moved over. Maybe more due to the time constraints involved. Now that we got that out of the way...

Note, this is a USED car with 95,000 miles. It is not new by any fashion and in fact General Motors no longer makes vehicles under the Pontiac brand. The Torrent was made from 2005 through 2009, and shares a platform with the Chevrolet Equinox. This is the second Pontiac we've bought and I just got the car today. It is a raised station wagon, commonly referred to a sport utility vehicle or S.U.V.. The length is 188.8 inches (15'9'') or 4796 mm. The wheelbase is 112.5 inches (9'4 1/2") or 2858 mm. The track or width is 71.4 inches or just a half inch shy of six feet wide and the height is 69.3 inches or 5'9 1/3". The vehicle is almost as tall as it is wide and two and half times tall as it is wide. It's nearly similar in every dimension as the Buick Rendezvous I traded in. The Torrent is one inch longer, one inch narrower and once inch lower than the Rendezvous. The wheelbase is nearly identical. The cargo area is about a third smaller but the leg shoulder and hip room are about the same. The headroom is a little smaller in front, but with the height to the seat all the way down, this is not a huge concern. This car came with a CD player with XM radio, a four way power driver's seat with manual lumbar and recline. Manual heating and air conditioning, projector fog lamps, power mirrors, front seat warmers, remote keyless entry, a tachometer, a compact spare, cloth seats and a power moon roof which I'm not crazy about. It also has cruise control and radio buttons in the steering wheel spokes. It's silver with a black interior and five cup holders, two power jacks, and no entertainment system for the kiddies or a built in GPS. It is all wheel drive. Under the hood is a 3.4 liter (204 cubic inch) LNJ V-6 with electronic throttle control and 185 horsepower (138 kw) and 210 pounds feet (285 Newton Meters) of torque. This is mated to a five speed Aisin AF33 Automatic Transmission. I'm going to guess this engine is going to get about 20 mpg and has a 16 gallon tank. It cost me about $48 to fill this up from 1/8 a tank. The curb weight is 3,602 pounds, which is about 80 pounds lighter than my first car (A 1977 Olds Delta 88 Royale) or about 418 pounds lighter than the Rendezvous (the all wheel drive might add more to the weight).

Even with all of this, the Torrent is a big vehicle. The hood is longer and the windshield not as raked. meaning the total volume inside is going to be smaller. This will make changing the spark plugs much easier, although the engine compartment is pretty tight. It has an undercover for noise and to make the mess of wires, hoses, mechanical parts and whatnot appear less cluttered. The battery is hidden inside a plastic case, and the transmission has a fill plug and no dipstick. As least the oil is still checked with one (whew). There is also the added benefit of a transfer case and a rear differential to service on this one. The best thing I can say is to take this to a garage for repair. There is also a cabin air filter, which I've yet to try and figure out where that is. The light bulbs are pretty simple to replace but all are working at this time. The appearance is pretty handsome, in my opinion for a GM vehicle of this era. It shares the same platform with the Chevrolet Equinox, but has red tail lamps, a split grille and uncluttered look about it. This is a lot to be said for a vehicle of the Pontiac brand, as nearly every model before, including the Aztek the Torrent replaced was rife with body cladding. While the Aztek was busy with every angle and shape imaginable, the Torrent is subdued.

The interior is also what you would suggest from Pontiac, clean, simple and with large controls. Unlike the earlier Pontiacs from the 1990's onward, The gauge cluster on this has red needles and yellow faces, unlike the twinkly silver and teal faces that were impossible to read in certain light situations on my old car. The rest of the controls are red, however. Unlike the Rendezvous, which had the shifter on the steering column, this one has the shifter on the dash, which is something I like a lot better. The controls themselves are not the most intuitive and took some guessing to what was what. Quickly, I found that the window controls were behind the shifter (only the driver's is lit) and the seat warmers were in front. The fog light control is "conveniently" located to the upper right side of the radio and heater controls. The radio has a nice and quality appearance to it, but you have to push a "feed" button to feed a CD and the controls are a bit complicated. The heating and air conditioning controls seem a bit low, and kitschy. The best bet is to leave the A/C and radio control where you want them and not bother with them while driving. This is a good practice on any car. The power moon roof (surprise) has the control in between the map lights and is pretty simple to operate. I would not do this while driving though. If you prefer, there is a panel to block this off. Since the interior is dark, I like leaving this panel open for more natural light. Moon roofs have a tendency to leak in the worst places if not maintained, so this is going to be something I'm going to have to learn to maintain real quick. The cup holders are unobtrusive; almost to the point that I had go to the owners manual to find them. These will hold a 32 ounce cup, but for the 44 ounce, better use the molded one in the console.. The armrest for the driver is in a good spot, and flips up to reveal a CD rack and there's a small storage compartment inside. There is a pocket on either side of the console and in each front door for maps and the like. They aren't much bigger for anything else though. The glove compartment is decently sized and accessible by the driver. Something I would have to get out of the car to do with the Rendezvous. The lights and wiper controls are mounted on stalks (a Pontiac trait) and take a bit of deciphering as to what they do. Adjusting that steering column will get the wheel just about right for six footers at the uppermost position. Fortunately, the driver's seat is low enough to prevent my cell phone from snagging on the steering wheel. This always happened on the Rendezvous with the wheel in the usual driving position and it was annoying. The driving position is superb, but six footers take note: You need to be behind the stop lines on the pavement or you will struggle to see the traffic signal.

The seats are firm and have modest thigh support with adjustable headrests. The power controls allow you to move the seat back and forth as well as up and down. All other control are manual. The front seat passenger may have a slightly harder time getting the seatback up straight, which has a semi hard plastic back to it. The reason for this is so you can fold the front passenger seat forward to carry skis, a snowboard, pipes, or that potato cannon you made from those pipes. Back seat room is almost freakishly roomy, even with the front seats all the way back. Although this is noticeably narrower than my last car, there is still enough room to fit three adults. A third row seat is not available in the Torrent, nor should it ever be for vehicles this size. These are barely big enough for small children anyway. Better to buy a big van or larger SUV. Cargo room with the seats up is noticeably smaller than my old car, with a higher load floor. This is not a problem from me as I have arthritis and prefer to reach the seatbacks from the tailgate without straining. Another nice feature (in this writer's opinion) is that the spare is inside the cargo area under a panel in the floor. Much better than under the vehicle held with a subhuman tire winch that always breaks and is a P.I.T.A. to use; not a nice feature to use in the rain or with cars speeding past you. You can even put a full sized spare in there, which is nice for towing a trailer. The tire winch broke on my Rendezvous (thank you Wal Mart) and it was going to cost $250 to get this replaced! I'll carry the spare inside thank you! The cargo cover also doubles as a table for camping or tailgating. The jack and lug wrench are in a side compartment on the driver's side and the fuel door is on the right side.

The ride is firm, but not punishing on Michigan's decrepit roads. The steering assist is also firm, with a consistent feel. It helps this is electric rather than hydraulic. Brakes are disk in front and drums in the rear, which this writer prefers anyway. Disk brakes in back seem to create more durability problems for both the back and the front including pad and rotor wear. I've seen this with the Chrysler Imperials, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Buick Regal to name a few. Buyers seem to like this idea and manufacturers are getting on the bandwagon, but all they seem to do is add more cost without increasing braking performance all that much. Workers even managed to put the rear rotors on the front of certain 2014 Chevys and Buicks. Go figure, but I digress. Even with all of this, GM is something I'm familiar with and had the best reliability for the money. Time will tell if the Torrent is reliable, but I'm not going to be fixing this much anyway, save for pads, shoes, rotors, drums and bulbs anyway. It wasn't everything I wanted, but for the money it comes the closest. I bought this over a Kia Rondo (too small and beat up), a Chevy HHR (poor driving position and "ugly" inside and out according to my wife) and a Saturn Vue (wife didn't like the color, a bit banged up). We also quickly ruled out the Dodge minivans because the seats were physically too small in the rear for anything more than really little children. We're talking toddlers here.  Maranatha!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting Rid of the Rendezvous.

Four years ago almost to the day, I used the money I was going to spend on fixing my beleaguered 2003 Dodge Intrepid and bought a 2004 Buick Rendezvous CX, with the 3.4 liter, 2 wheel drive. The paint scheme still is a champagne over brown with neutral interior that seats five. From the day I've owned it, I've replaced:
  1. 4 tires
  2. 2 batteries
  3. Front struts
  4. 2 sets of rotors front and back.
  5. Steering rack and tie rods.
  6. Control arm bushings in front and rear.
  7. Air conditioning compressor.
  8. Radiator and hoses.
  9. 2 Starters.
  10. Too many ignition switches to count.
  11. Relamped the dash and radio.
  12. Heater control.
  13. Heater fan and resistor.
  14. 2 straps for the back door.
  15. Rear wiper motor.
  16. Rear carpet.
  17. Stabilizer links
  18.  Muffler
  19. C/V shaft and bearing.
  20. Windshield
  21. Headlamps
  22. Front bumper
  23. 3 remotes
  24. Key
  25. Liftgate switch and support rods.
  26. Power steering pump. 
When I got it, this beast had 129,000 miles on it. And now it has close to 169,000 and still runs. I've driven it to Kentucky, Ohio and Mackinaw City and it has never stranded me, not once. The air conditioner still works but has a leak at the compressor. The stabilizer bar on these cars are prone to cracking and breaking apart and this one is no exception. There is a pronounced noise when turning the wheel and some hesitation when turning the wheel. The front brake rotors are chewed up again, and the tires have had it. Thus far, the body is still in good shape, but this car gets 18 miles to the gallon and only seats five. Despite its generous size, there's not enough room for a 4x8 sheet of plywood, and if we need to shuttle more than five people, we need to take separate cars. The seats in the front are falling apart and have never cleaned right. To get the immediate issues fixed on this will cost more than what the car is worth. Even though the engine and transmission have never given me a bit of trouble, it's only a matter of time before these will start to cause me grief. This Saturday will be the day of reckoning for the Rendezvous, which has served me very well, even when the steering rack broke on I-96, it still got me home. I will write about my new vehicle soon enough, giving a preliminary review first. It won't be brand-new of course, but will be something five or six years old at the most. Maranatha!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Converting a Lennox Furnace with the Piggybacked Ignition Module to the Honeywell S8610U1003 Control. (Techs Only Please!)

*******WARNING! If you are a homeowner reading this, the furnaces with this control are well past their service life. The technician doing the repair MUST inspect the heat exchanger for failures thoroughly before doing this and any other repair to this piece of equipment. The furnaces included, but not limited to, Lennox G11 and G12 models with the ignition module mounted to the gas valve. These also have the Dura Curve heat exchanger that is prone to cracking along the rear of the curved sections where the welds are. Once these are cracked, they cannot be repaired and must be shut down and replaced per AGA guidelines, state and local safety codes as well as common sense. Again, many of the parts on this piece of equipment are obsolete as they were made 30 years ago and this repair could cost in excess of $500. This is for a furnace that will fail anyway. From my experience, people will replace everything they own in the course of seven years including their automobiles, which cost ten times as much as a properly installed furnace. Even a base 80% efficient model should cost less installed than high end plasma television. The furnace will save you hundreds of dollars a year in heating costs and possibly tens of thousands in home repairs and medical costs. I've walked into these homes where they have a brand-new car, high end infotainment systems and the furnace over 30 years old. You know who you are, so forgo the TV and replace the furnace.******

******Disclaimer, this article is for informational purposes and the job is best left to an experienced technician only. Even then, other parts can be damaged and instructions need to be followed to the best of your ability and circumstances determined by your best judgment. Personal injury, death and property damage can result from working on heating equipment even when repairs are done to the best of your ability and instructions are followed to the letter. Perform this and all repairs at your own risk.******

Follow the instructions per the Honeywell module, but you will need to remove old module off the gas valve with the two screws and disconnecting the red, blue and black wires. Mount the new control to the upper right corner of the inside panel over the heat exchanger so the wires off the gas valve can reach. Hook up the three wires from the gas valve to the new unit. Follow the wiring diagram. Now for the tricky part. You MUST remove the ground pigtail from the neutral wire on the transformer or you will fry that and the thermostat. Better off taking that ground wire and using this as the burner ground on the new module. This is it boys and girls, and probably my last post for HVAC repair for a while.

This is the typical wiring diagram for the furnaces in question. Note that other diagrams will differ.